we had always thought about making a pit stop in iceland as part of a mainland Eurotrip and I highly recommend it! Iceland is an incredible place, with so much unique natural beauty on one small island. the only downside is that its on the pricier side with mediocre food, but foodies can get their fix at another stop in Europe. Summer is busy season and accomodations are not cheap and get booked quickly.
day 1: we rented a car in the airport, it wasn't exactly in the airport but they came to get us and dropped us off at the rental place 3 minutes away. Driving in Iceland was very easy with good roads and signage but things can get sparce and remote (you might not pass a gas station or restaurant for a while, especially as you get further from Reykjavik.) Highway 1 or ring road runs as a circle throughout the country. We got an SUV which ultimately wasn't necessary. First stop was lunch in reykjavik at Bergsson Mathus, a cute brunch cafe. We then continued our drive along 1 to 2 beautiful waterfalls, skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss (both have some short trails nearby.) and afterwards continued along ring road til our accomodations in Vik. We booked a glamping airbnb which was fun but it was pouring all night and the sound of the rain hitting the tent kept me up all night. the beds had heated mattresses which was a really pleasant addition even on a summer night. There was a common barn area which had a full kitchen and wifi and shared bathrooms.
day 2: we got up early to hike in Reynisfjara, this one had amazing views of black sand beach on one side and the town of Vik on the other. We booked an afternoon glacier hike and drove to Skaftafell for Vatnajökull glacier hike (we used Troll expeditions but there are many tour groups which offer the same trip) which was worth the price. You can see how much the glacier is receding year by year. We stayed overnight at Vesturhus Hostel in Hof so that we could be closer to our destination the next day. It was a clean, well-maintained but simple house that had multiple rooms being rented out to different parties.
day 3: We drove to Jokulsarlon glacier lake for ice lagoon adventure tour (one hour boat ride) which was incredible. The boat took us closer to the glacier and we saw seals warming up on the ice chunks. We then had some soup and hot chocolate in the little shop there to warm up and took a walk along diamond beach, where chunks of ice are washed upon the shore which is an incredible sight. It was super chilly here so bring lots of layers! This is the furthest we drove along ring road and we started our way back to Skaftafell for a hike and then continued further to Hvolsvollur for the night.
This was a nice room with a cafe on the bottom level and a shared kitchen on the top.
day 4: We initially wanted to avoid the golden circle but decided to drive to the geysirs since we had never seen any. They were a bit underwhelming as expected. We then continued our drive back and stoped to do the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River hike, which is a 4 mile hike with hot springs at the end so bring bathing suits!
We then drove back to Reykjavik for rest of day and ate at Icelandic Street Food where you can order one meal but try all of them, walked along harbor, and spent evening at Blue Lagoon (overpriced but probably worth just once for the experience), overnight in Keflavik--close to airport for an early AM flight.